Last Updated on June 23, 2021
8 Things to Know About Bernese Mountain Dogs
If your family is searching for a new dog, a Bernese Mountain Dog could very well be an excellent option. But first, you’ll want to look at this list of 8 things to know about Bernese Mountain Dogs before owning one. As a Swiss dog breed, these loveable giants have specific quirks that any new owner should know before bringing their puppy home to meet their forever family.
8 Things to Know About Bernese Mountain Dogs
Bernese Mountain Dogs are Big Dogs
If you are looking for a small to medium-sized dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog is not for you. The Berner, as they’re affectionately referred to, is a large breed. Topping out at an average of weight of 80-115 lbs for males (70-95 lbs for females), they are quite substantial.
Their average height is 25-28 inches for a male and 23-26 inches for a female. Keep in mind that these are average statistics. Don’t be surprised if you see a Berner weighing 120-130 pounds. Because they are such a large dog, they should be given obedience training beginning at a young age.
However, because they are a ‘soft” dog breed, they should never be trained harshly. Bernese Mountain Dogs are people pleasers, meaning they just want to please their owners, which is why harsh training methods should never be used and will instead break their spirit and trust.
They Are Extremely Even Tempered and Affectionate
Berners are an extremely docile, self-assured, and good-natured dog who loves affection. Because of this even temperament, they are not prone to attacking others unless they are given a specific reason. They will defend their owners but are not likely to attack without provocation.
This rule does not apply to Berners when they are puppies. When a baby begins teething, they want to put anything in their mouth and chew. Puppies are the same way. They learn by “mouthing” objects, including hands and feet.
They Are a Cold Weather Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs were originally bred in the Swiss Alps and unlike many other dog breeds, they have a double coat. This makes them very prone to overheating and gives them a preference and need for cooler/cold temperatures. For this reason, thoroughly consider getting a different breed if you live in an extremely hot or tropical climate.
They Require Regular Grooming
The double coat of the Bernese Mountain Dog means that they should be brushed and groomed very often; by often, I mean at least once a week. If this is not done, their coats can quickly become matted. We have found that starting grooming our long-haired dogs such as the Bernese mountain dog and our long-haired Rottie as puppies makes them champs at the grooming process.
Berners are also long-haired dogs and very prone to shedding, especially in the spring months. Be prepared to find hair in every corner and crevice of your home. No matter how often you sweep the floors, you’ll find more.
When grooming, particular attention should be paid to their ears as matted hair can quickly form causing discomfort and sometimes pain. Also, their ears can quickly develop infection-causing bacteria and fluid. They do not require weekly bathing unless they are extra dirty. Otherwise, a bath every couple of months is perfectly acceptable.
Because they need weekly “spa” days, Berners require a lot of attention and can be a lot of work. For this reason, they will not be an ideal fit for people who do not have the time or are not willing to take the time to groom them properly.
They Are Work Dogs
The Bernese Mountain Dog was bred as a working dog and eventually was used as a delivery dog. Even modern dogs have this drive and desire to work. They often do extremely well with draft work and herding making them perfect for those that live on a farm or homestead.
Since they are level-headed, but also alert and protective, they can also be put to work as guard dogs for your home or livestock. Our Berner does extremely well with our other animals, including our rabbit.
They Need Exercise
Because they are work dogs and are at their best outdoors, they should be given regular exercise if they’re not working. They do best with short exercise sessions as opposed to longer ones since they do not have a high amount of stamina, plus they do get hot.
While they are usually very well behaved, a Bernese Mountain Dog who is not properly exercised may begin to excessively bark and harass others in the home, including other family pets. As they say, idle hands are the devil’s playground- maybe that applies to dogs too. 😉
They Have a Shorter Lifespan Over Other Dogs
Many large dog breeds have an average lifespan of at least ten years, but the Bernese Mountain Dog has a significantly shorter one. On average, they only live six to nine years. In fact, they have one of the shortest life expectancies of all dog breeds; both those of a similar size and of purebred dogs in general.
Again, this is an average life expectancy. I personally know owners whose Berners have lived 14 years, but I also don’t want to get your hopes up. Be prepared for a shorter life if you choose this loveable and affectionate breed.
They Are Protective
As I mentioned above, they are a soft and even-tempered dog; however, they are also very loyal and protective. This makes them a fantastic option for those who are looking to add security to their home.
Sometimes, they even fall asleep in your arms just as the picture shows below.
They’re Great with Kids
Their even temperament and an incredible amount of patience mean that the Bernese Mountain Dog is usually fantastic with kids. They have large amounts of patience and will often tolerate kids climbing on them as little ones are known to do.
Because of this patience, they make great additions to homes with kids. However, if you have kids, the shorter lifespan of the Berner should be taken into account. And because they are a natural herding dog, they will tend to nip on the heels of little ones in your home.
This isn’t an act of aggression, but instead their natural instinct to herd. Through training, they will stop. This behavior hasn’t lasted long with either our long-haired Rottie or our Berner because we train them quickly to direct that herding appropriately.
They Are Prone to Cancer and Other Health Issues
All dogs can develop cancer, but the Bernese Mountain Dog is especially vulnerable to it and has a significantly higher rate of fatalities than other breeds. Almost half of all Bernese Mountain Dogs die from cancer. The average rate for other breeds is around 27%.
Because of their size, they are also prone to size-related health issues. Hip dysplasia, arthritis, and ligament rupture are common with this breed. They are also prone to genetic eye diseases and other musculoskeletal problems.
They can become rather expensive, but pet insurance can also help keep the costs associated with vet visits lower. I don’t want to scare you away, but I also want you to be well informed.
There might seem to be a lot of down-side to owning a Berner, but the up-side far outweighs the negatives. Berners are one of the most loving, loyal, compassionate, and fun breeds I’ve ever been around. Our Berner is so loving, so sweet! He is just happy being with us. He follows our kids around like they are the best thing since sliced bread. We absolutely love him!
Read more about our other dogs on the homestead as well! Did you learn anything interesting from our 8 Things To Know About Bernese Mountain Dogs?